Step 1: What topic are you thinking of writing your paper on? Why did you choose this specific topic?
The topic I intend to write about is autism, although I am still at a loss concerning just what aspect(s) I wish to address. I chose this topic because I am currently an aide to one (oftentimes violent) child on a special needs bus. Whether it was an oversight or I wasn’t given the information regarding what disabilities I would be working with because of HIPAA, I came onto this bus of seven children, one monitor, and a bus-driver who mysteriously decided to despise me from the moment we met ready for work but completely ‘at sea’ regarding what I would be dealing with. Believe it or not, I had to guess! And since I had no experience previously dealing with autism, it took me three weeks to figure out that all the children on the bus were autistic (I rather figured it was so with ‘my’ boy; but had no idea they would be ‘grouped’ according to disability).
I have zero training in dealing with this state. It seems I have a natural intuition about how to deal with problems, as well as a rather remarkable affinity for these children. So it is no wonder that I would want to use this opportunity to learn more about what I am dealing with every day.
Step 2: Post a starting thesis statement based upon what you want to discuss in your paper.
I have not, as of yet, chosen the more specific topic on which to write my thesis/paper. However, this is what I initially jotted down:
• What are (some of) the ways autism shows itself in children ranging from age 2-20?
• What are the symptoms?
• Do demonstrations of affection help them? In a professional setting, what is permissible? How much is too much?
• How do the ‘rituals’ these children develop help them cope with the world? Hinder them?
These are my initial thoughts about this subject. I could write and write simply from reading only two articles thus far (Autism Fact Sheet, 1996; and Jones, Quigney and Huws, 2003), because each symptom or cause listed seems to be one that I am experiencing each day with these children. For example, genetically the possibility of a family with one autistic child having another is 1-in-20, which is greater than the chance in the general populace (Autism Fact Sheet, 1996). I have two autistic brothers on ‘my’ bus. In “First-hand accounts of sensory perceptual experiences in autism: a qualitative analysis” (Jones, Quigney, Huws, 2003), one of the symptoms listed are hypersensitive senses (called ‘turbulent sensory perceptual experiences). One of these same brothers (we’ll call him ‘J’ for convenience’ sake) spends most of the daily ride screaming at the other children for making noise or movement, almost always insisting that the offending children are ‘doing it on purpose’ to upset him.
Also listed as potential symptoms are: self-injury and musical talent. (Jones, Quigney, Huws, 2003). The reason I cite this apparently random pairing is because 7-year-old ‘D’ shows both these symptoms. He cannot speak (the most common sound he makes, especially when other children are acting out, is ‘EEEEEEEEEEEE’); yet I was stunned in the past week to hear him sing perfectly the lyrics and melody of a top-5 pop song he hears played repeatedly on the bus radio each day. His voice was beyond mimicry; it was truly lovely. Most of the time he spends hitting the seat, the window, and the metal framing around the window. He is primarily responsible for my desire to know if this self-harm grants him some form of self-control, for he is one of the best-behaved children on the bus.
In the 'Autism Fact Sheet' ( Childhood Development Institute, 1996) it states that four times more males are stricken with autism than are females. This also is playing out in my experience, for out of the 7 children we care for, only one is female. 'L' is about the most adorable 17 year old girl (she looks to be no more than 12) one could ever see. She smiles all the time, unless stressed out; and then, she lies down and pretends to be asleep (and oftentimes WILL fall asleep). Every afternoon when we pick her up, she has two repetitive behaviors: first off, she has a very interesting little computer, the likes of which I've never seen. She is very agile with the various programs. At the top of the screen is a reminder: 'Your white beads are in the white cabinet at home'. Each day, she needs her monitor (or myself, although her monitor is far better at this than I) to reassure her at least 20 times that, indeed, her white beads are at home in the white cabinet, and she will have them when she arrives home. 'L' cannot speak at all clearly, except to half-growl, half-yelp, 'OK? OK? OK?' when she wants to be sure she is understood and that all is well; her beads will be in her hands shortly. The second behavior is this: she comes onto the afternoon bus with headphones attached to a little CD player, which plays (I'm told) Disney songs. 'L' rocks and 'sings' at the top of her voice the whole trip home. It is so darling we cannot help but laugh for the sheer beauty and humor of it. So again, we see music is a powerful healing force for these children.
Next comes 'JJ'. He is the eldest of all the 'children', being 20 years old. Come May, he will turn 21, and will no longer be able to ride with us; other arrangements will be made. Now 'JJ' CAN speak somewhat understandably, and is also hilarious. When he doesn't want to engage with anyone who is speaking with him, he roars, 'I'm meditating!!!' This is a sign to leave him be. He sits behind me, and is completely fascinated with my hair.; He twines his hands in it, gently at first; but then pulls harder and harder until I have to make him stop or at least, 'Be gentle'. He oftentimes grabs my face and sticks his fingers in my eye sockets - none of this is done with intent to harm; he just goes into another state and my head becomes a soothing sort of toy for him. Though his monitor tries to make him stop, none of us can stop laughing; so it isn't all that easy to get him to stop, for who can take us seriously when we're rolling around laughing?
References: The autism fact sheet. Office of Scientific and Health Reports, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,
National Institutes of Health Maryland, 1996. Retrieved on 10/30/2010 from: http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/disorders/autism_fact_sheet.shtml
First-hand accounts of sensory perceptual experiences in autism: a qualitative analysis.Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability; Jun2003, Vol. 28 Issue 2, p112; , 10p. Retrieved on 10/30/2010 from: http://web.ebscohost.com.kaplan.uah.edu/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=10&sid=5eaf5e9b-cb39-43a0-a8bc-8a1ea9efca73%40sessionmgr13&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=tfh&AN=10600330#db=tfh&AN=10600330#db=tfh&AN=10600330